Big hurdle: No. 1 Wildcats

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By Dave Kavanaugh

Robertson probably has a better football team than it did on Sept. 3.
Just how much better will be determined on Saturday.

The Cardinals are back in the Class 3A state semifinals and one game away from the state championship. But they’ll have the unenviable task of playing No. 1 Lovington on the road at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

Two local radio stations are expected to broadcast the game live.

The Wildcats handled RHS 28-6 back on Sept. 3, also in Lovington. That was the first of only two losses Robertson sustained this season, the other coming at Class 4A St. Pius X.

Head coach Jaime Quiñones has guided the Wildcats to a 9-2 record and the No. 1 ranking in the state, which they’ve held throughout the season. The resume includes a 41-28 win over Class 4A Hobbs, routs of district rivals Portales and Ruidoso, the win over Robertson and three Texas schools, a 47-0 shutout of West Las Vegas, and last week’s quarterfinal victory over St. Michael’s.

The only blemishes are minor and understandable — a 63-49 loss at Class 4A power Artesia that was decided late back on Aug. 27, and a 53-52 squeaker at Class 4A Goddard on Nov. 5 in Roswell.

Lovington averaged 49.2 points per game during the regular season before eliminating St. Mike’s from the playoffs 42-26 last week. Wildcats quarterback Jacob Jameson is a dual threat in passing and rushing, and he passed for more than 200 yards and ran for an additional 150 to oust the Horsemen. Robert Hargrove, Chris Keeler and Robert Perez are all capable of making plays for Lovington.
As Lovington did in pulling away from St. Mike’s after a close first half, Robertson showed it can shift to a higher gear after intermission in last week’s 44-19 win over Hatch Valley.

QB Daniel Martinez leads a potent rushing attack that is at its best when Martinez, Dalan Abreu and Nick Archuleta are all carrying the ball.

But the Robertson defense — the team’s strength throughout the tenure of Leroy Gonzalez, whether as defensive coordinator or now as head coach — is central to its success. That defense will be tested to say the least against an explosive Wildcat offense.

Lovington is the defending Class 3A state champion, having defeated Socorro in the December 2009 final.